SINCE THE EARLY nineteenth century, the Moorish palace-city of the Alhambra has inspired the most gushing and hyperbolic prose. The Alhambra's extraordinary appeal, greater perhaps than that of any other monument in the Islamic world, is due only partly to the combination of its magnificent mountain setting, its luxuriant gardens, and the near-unprecedented sensuality of its architecture. There is in addition the immensely attractive, if also thoroughly misleading, notion of the Alhambra as the ultimate symbol both of a lost paradise and of a glorious civilisation destroyed by the Christians.
One of the maior tasks in writing about the Alhambra is to extricate historical fact from all the legends, inaccuracies, far-fetched theories and sentimental assumptions that have grown up around it. Robert Irwin, in this welcome addition to the Profile Books Wonders of the World series, rightly states that though